The Mayor of London’s Office for Policing and Crime (MOPAC) has approved a four-year contract with Northgate Public Services to purchase and use retrospective facial recognition technology.

The four-year contract, worth up to £3,084,000, is for an initial 2-year term, with the option to extend a further 2 years on a 1 year plus 1-year basis.

“Technical advancements made over recent years would if seized now allow the MPS opportunities that were not previously available to support the detection and matching of faces,” the decision reads.

“The opportunity also represents a chance to realise significant savings in terms of officer time it takes to reconcile an image of a person to that person’s identity. This helps prevent and detect crime and keeps Londoners safe.”

The Metropolitan police will benefit from a Retrospective Facial Recognition (RFR) search capability to enable the effective use of images and image frames from video data across all type of investigations. 

The MPS said it is consulting with the London Policing Ethics Panel (LPEP) about governance, and will meet the panel next month to discuss.

Over the years, facial recognition technology has faced much scrutiny, with its main criticism being its infringement of privacy.

“When sensitive personal data is collected on a mass scale without people’s knowledge, choice or control, the impacts could be significant,” information commissioner Elizabeth Denham said in a decision earler this year.

“We should be able to take our children to a leisure complex, visit a shopping centre or tour a city to see the sights without having our biometric data collected and analysed with every step we take.”